Hunger and Fullness Scale: How to Make it Work for You

One of the most well known components of intuitive eating (IE) is the hunger and fullness scale. In fact, I find that if you aren't careful, sometimes focusing on this exclusively can result in looking at IE as just another diet. So it is important to be aware of the hunger and fullness aspects but not to turn it into another way to measure success or failure. And if you find that you've been dieting for quite some time now, or restricting foods, you may not be in tune with your own hunger and fullness. So let's learn a few simple tips to help you get in tune with your body more.

Hunger and Fullness As a Child

Think back to when you were a kid for a second. I bet you didn't have a problem noticing those feelings of hunger. And similar to those feelings of hunger, you were also able to stop eating when you were full. But when we get older, we often lose this ability, resulting in things like mindless eating, overeating, emotional eating and more. The reason that learning to be in tune with your hunger and fullness is important goes far beyond just your physical appearance. As I said already, intuitive eating is not another diet nor is it about weight loss. And it is not something that you fail or succeed at. It is a way of nourishing your body, mind and soul and overall just how you live your life. Learning to understand the hunger and fullness scale is an important part of the intuitive eating journey. The concept is simple, but the application can be difficult. But once you are able to tune in more, this will become second nature, I promise. It just takes some time when you aren't used to it.

It should also be noted that things like disordered eating, eating disorders, various diseases, chronic dieting, stress, digestive issues and even certain medications can all disrupt the natural ability to detect hunger and fullness. This is why it is so hard to gauge at times.

eating a bowl of oatmeal

What is the hunger and fullness scale?

The hunger and fullness scale looks like the following:

hunger and fullness scale graphic

Ideally, you want to eat when you find yourself feeling around a level 3-4 and stop eating around a level of 6-7. I say ideally because we don't live in a perfect world and things can happen. Once you are able to be a little more in tune with your body, you will naturally find that you are able to abide by this scale for the most part.

How to Gauge Your Fullness

Before you begin to eat your meal, do a quick scan of how you are feeling and be cognizant of where you fall on the scale. I say this because chances are, you will find yourself eating quickly (and possibly excessively) when you wait too long to eat. It's a natural reaction and something that happens to everyone, so don't beat yourself up about it. Just be aware and perhaps next time, try and be a little more in tune with your body.

Now when you sit down to eat, you want to try and be present. That doesn't mean you have to sit in silence to enjoy your meal. I personally think that you can enjoy your meal however feels right to you. And I would encourage you to try and slow down between bites of food so you can take a moment and see how you feel while eating. Checking in with yourself in between bites can help prevent eating too quickly or overeating.

looking at a chocolate truffle while holding it

When You Can't Follow the Hunger/Fullness Scale:

Again in an ideal world, you would be able to eat around a 3-4 and stop around a 6-7. However, things pop up and schedules can get hectic and eating at the exact right time is not only not possible but can also add more stress. So what do you do?

I would suggest doing your best to have an idea as to what your schedule is going to look like and planning ahead. Having snacks on hand is always a good idea too. This will help ensure that you can eat something to help with your hunger prior to being able to sit down and eat your meal. Snacks don't have to be hard to put together either. You can pick up some great quality bars, veggies and hummus or even just an apple. Something is better than nothing and being prepared is an essential first step. Sometimes, eating a little before you feel physically hungry is important too if you know that your schedule is going to be really busy.

The other thing to do would be to recognize that you may overeat and eat to the point of say an 8 on the scale. If that helps you in the moment and also keeps you fuller longer then that's ok too. Remember, there are no rules in intuitive eating! It is important to try and make sure that your meals are well balanced so that you are full and satisfied. Basically, this means ensuring your meals contain some fibre, protein, fat and carbs. If you want an easy and healthy snack idea, be sure to check out my chocolate energy balls, just like the ones in the picture below.

dusting cocoa powder on chocolate energy balls

A Note About Fullness:

A lot of times due to a lingering diet mentality, it can seem that you should stop eating once you feel full, like at a level 5. That is because we associate any feelings of being full or satisfied with guilt. And let's face it, we feel guilty about eating foods that taste good, the term guilty pleasure is proof of that. So rather than stopping eating when we feel neutral, it is perfectly ok to eat when we feel satisfied. If that means adding some extra carbs to a meal then so be it. When we eat until satisfied, we will be less likely to reach for more food later to satisfy us.

It is similar to when we eat to fulfil a craving. How many times have you tried to eat something to satisfy a craving using a 'healthier' alternative. It doesn't always work though. Sometimes, we need the real thing. And when we allow ourselves to enjoy that food, we can then just eat it and move on. Food doesn't need to have such control over us after all.

hunger and fullness graphic

Eating When You Aren't Physically Hungry:

Rather than having this type of hunger/fullness scale control us or turn into just another diet. It's important to remember that this is your life after all and the simple act of eating when you aren't hungry physically is not only completely normal but also perfectly fine. Consider when you are out with friends enjoying yourself and you find you start nibbling on foods even though you weren't physically hungry. It's a social thing and it is completely normal to engage in eating with your friends.

There is also emotional eating as well, such as eating when you are bored, lonely, sad etc. The act of eating emotionally is not the problem. In fact, it is kind of a blessing. Thats right! It actually works in a way to let you know that something in your life requires your attention. Maybe you need more self-care time, more sleep, more love or a change of scenery. You can read more about emotional eating over here.

Final Thoughts on Hunger and Fullness

Don't beat yourself up if you find you are eating when you aren't physically hungry. It's perfectly normal to do this from time to time. It doesn't mean you failed at intuitive eating or mindful eating. This isn't a diet and there is no success or failure.

I can still remember that feeling of satisfaction and fullness I felt after being out at a restaurant to eat. Normally, I would have ate more than I wanted to just because there was still food on the table, but I didn't. I didn't want to feel overly full and sick and I knew that if I ate any more I would. So I pushed my fork and plate away and that was that. And yeah, there are always leftovers in this case too!

I would love to hear from you, so feel free to let me know if this post resonated with you. Do you have any questions about hunger and fullness in regards to intuitive eating?

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Anastasha
August 8, 2022
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Shafia
August 2, 2022
This was delicious!!! It takes some prep time but each portion is packed with flavour! Will definitely make again ❤️
Cristina
July 31, 2022
I made this yesterday and HOLY MOLY it hit the spot!!! It’s been so hot and muggy out here, so I was craving something light, cool, and filling. This recipe did not disappoint. The flavor of the peanut sauce was delicious. It had been a while since I prepared something with such color and flavor, which made eating it that much better. I will definitely make this again and try your other recipes too!! 😍🙏🏻❤️
Jaclyn
July 25, 2022
Hi Henrik! Thanks for letting me know you made them. Depending on the size of your food processor, it can be a lot to pulse all at once, so maybe working in batches is better. I'm glad you liked them and they firmed up for you :) Enjoy the rest!
henrik bechmann
July 25, 2022
Yep, they firmed up nicely. I'm freezing four, and looking forward to having the other four, dressed with sauerkraut, pickles, mustard, vegan mayo, onions, banana chiles, and maybe even ketchup. Yum!
henrik bechmann
July 25, 2022
Well I ended up baking them for 23 minutes (@400F). They're delicious! A bit soft, but I'm hoping they'll firm up when they cool. Texture is good too. Thanks for this!
henrik bechmann
July 24, 2022
Seems like a good and tasty recipe. But I had to add a generous half cup of water to get any kind of movement in the food processor. I substituted flax seeds for hemp (what I had). The mixture was a bit loose because of the water, but still formed nicely into patties. Baking for 15 min at 400F. Looking forward to them!
Jaclyn
July 23, 2022
Hi Roxanne! So for the meatballs photos with feta, I just used regular olive oil. But for the one photo with the red looking oil, that was olive oil mixed with fried green onions and Aleppo pepper. I have that recipe in full on my Instagram account - if you head over there, you'll see it - https://www.instagram.com/p/CbQXM2IlH4L/.
Roxanne
July 21, 2022
Hi! The topping on your whipped feta looked delicious. It appeared to be more than olive oil. Or maybe an infused olive oil? Do you mind sharing that recipe? I can’t wait to make this recipe. Appreciate the tip on room temp feta.
ANYA
July 19, 2022
Make these now! Once you buy your ingredients, this is the easiest recipe to execute...it's so hands off! I started the beef in the instant pot an hour before we wanted to eat and prepped the toppings while all of that was cooking. I used stewing beef and a home-made taco seasoning. I didn't have any beef broth so I used half of a bouillon cube - worked just fine! The enchilada sauce was store bought (Frontera brand) and it was delicious. Highly recommend the Monteray jack cheese - I used some Violife mozzarella that I happened to have at home but I can see how the sharp taste would add to the overall flavour.
Jaclyn
July 18, 2022
Hi Carolyn! I'm so glad you are loving my recipes, thank you so much for taking the time to let me know. I don't provide nutritional information as it doesn't align with my brand or how I personally choose to live my life, having had a disordered relationship to food in the past. I hope you understand :)
Carolyn
July 13, 2022
I love your recipes and have tried them! What would be GREAT is if you could include the nutritional value with calories. It would be beneficial to those of us trying to lose weight. Thank you, Carolyn
Julia
July 11, 2022
Just made this for my family today. I can’t have gluten or dairy but they can and this got a RESOUNDING stamp of approval! Love the simple ingredients and it tasted fabulous! Thanks for such nourishing recipes ❤️ 😊
Chris
July 3, 2022
Thanks for this! I came across this recipe very late in life, at a family meal. I liked it better than my mother's potato salad of my childhood, and better than my sister's which came from her in-laws. DH likes it very much. Win, win, win! Tip: if you don't want to steam up your summer kitchen nor fight the mosquitoes for the grill, pressure cook the potatoes!
MATILDE PAGAN
May 12, 2022
I am on a short vacation and came across this recipe, looking forward in making this. It looks really good. Can’t wait.
Whitney Mullenax
April 22, 2022
I have these cookies in the oven right now (2nd time making them in a few weeks). They are perfection and will be a great gift for some coworkers tomorrow. I made the recipe as is, great texture! I saved some for me too, don't worry ;)
Olivia Garcia
April 15, 2022
I love the ingredients in these recipes… Can’t wait to start them all!!
Anya
April 14, 2022
Don’t sleep on this wing recipe. It is soooo good! I can see this being a staple for game days, casual dinners or honestly…any day. Such a crowd pleaser as well. Oh and please don’t skip the dip. It’s unreal stuff! I was grabbing random things in my kitchen to eat it with once the wings were done.
Christa Campbell
March 28, 2022
The simplest recipe to make a delicious desert! I left out the cacao and just made vanilla coconut flavor and it was heavenly. I plan to add different flavors in the future; cacao with Orange or raspberry essence, vanilla salted, caramel flour de sel- the options are endless. Glad to find a keto friendly treat that can be made easily at home.
Rich
March 24, 2022
When do you add the mushrooms back in the pot?
Heidi
February 13, 2022
These were good! I've been curious to try making a miso dessert for a little while now, but wanted it to be grain free. I've found that almond flour based chocolate chip cookies always have some kind of nut butter, and since I just use peanut butter, it's like a PB cookie. The miso did a great job replacing nut butter and achieved a great, chewy consistency! It's definitely strong, although I'm sure white miso would have been more mild. I used dashi miso, which in hindsight sounds pretty gross.. the cookies were not at all fishy tasting, but just bold and kind of salty/savory. I think next time I'll try a little less miso. I have a tendency to use less sugar than a recipe calls for, but I definitely needed it in this one to balance the miso flavor. I just used regular butter too, not ghee.
Susan Renee Hennings
January 12, 2022
Yes, I like it a lot. Lentils are nutritious and inexpensive.
Carole
January 2, 2022
I’m just learning about adaptogens and trying to incorporate them into my “healthy arsenal”. Thanks for the info!
MAdeleine
December 27, 2021
This is the first cinnamon roll recipe i've actually gotten to work! I let the dough rest in the fridge for 4-5 hours and then rolled and filled it, then let it rest in the fridge over night and it worked great for an early morning bake. I looked through the whole recipe and you never mention what temperature to bake at. It just says "place in your preheated oven to bake" I baked at 350. Also it would be really nice if the caramel sauce recipe was included here. All in all totally delicious, worth the effort, and I will be making this again.